How the WRONG Copyeditor Can Make a Mess of Your Manuscript: part 2

Back for more, are you? Is it horrified fascination that brings you here, or are you hoping to learn a bit about what can go very, very badly if an author chooses the wrong (not competent, not familiar with the story’s genre, whatever) copyeditor?

Either way, here’s the rest of the sample, with the “corrected” version following each original passage.

Original version:

I was back in the Hub before the drug wore off and consciousness returned.  I thought I already knew what would happen: a trial — if you could call it that — and imprisonment.  Maybe they thought I would plead for mercy or claim temporary madness.  But I told the master of the Hub that I would serve him no longer, and instead of locking me in some cell, he had me taken and cast through another Door… into rain and howling wind.

And so they left me here on this tower of stone with nothing beyond it but a dark and raging sea.  I could not escape because there was nowhere to escape to.  The only way out was through the Door that brought me here, and I would not choose that even if I could.

“Corrected” version:

I was back in The Hub before the drug wore off and consciousness returned. I thought I already knew what would happen: a trial – if you could call it that – and then imprisonment. Maybe they thought I would plead for mercy or claim temporary madness. But I told the master of The Hub that I would serve him no longer, and instead of locking me in some cell, he had me taken me and cast me through another door… into rain and howling wind. The door shut the moment I was released.

And there they left me. On this tower of stone with nothing beyond it but a dark and raging sea. I could not escape because there was nowhere to escape too. The only way out was through the Door that brought me here, and even if I could, I would not choose that.

[Author’s comment: Did you catch the replacement of to with too? Of course you did, because you’re more observant – and intelligent/educated – that the idjit who, claiming to be a for-real professional editor with, like, a friend who says he really knows grammar and stuff, made such a mess of this manuscript.]

Original version:

I hurried to find shelter, if there was any.  Soon I discovered a narrow cleft in the stone that somewhat hid a door — an ordinary door, I was certain, and not a means to leave this place.  It was not locked, and I did not stop to consider where it might lead before letting myself inside.

There was a small chamber just beyond the door, with corridors branching off from two sides.  I chose one, and began a search for who might live here, or a clue about what this place was, or anything else I could learn.  The corridor was long, with more rooms, some large and some small, opening off it, as well as more corridors that I did not explore at this time.  No sign of recent habitation in any of them.  I went back and began again with the other corridor from the entry room, and it was the same as the first.  However long I would be here, it would be spent alone.

“Corrected” version:

I hurried to find shelter, if there was any. Soon I discovered a narrow cleft in the stone that partially hid a door – an ordinary wooden door, I was certain of that. And not a means to leave this place. It was not locked, and I did not stop to consider where it might lead before opening it and letting myself through.

Just beyond it was a small chamber, with corridors branching off from the two sides. I chose one, and began a search for who might live here, or a clue about what this place was, or anything else I could learn. The corridor was long and narrow, with more rooms, some large and some small, as yet more corridors opening off it. There was no signs of recent habitation in any of the rooms. I went back to the original chamber and began again with the other corridor, which gave the same results as the first. However long I was going to be here, it would be spent alone.

Original version:

I had nothing else to do with my time, though, so I set about searching through the rooms, and the corridors, and the rooms beyond those.  It was something to do besides think about what had happened to me, and why I was here, and how long I was likely to remain.

Most of the rooms were empty.  I found one that contained a narrow bed and a chair.  Another had shelves with a few hundred glass jars:  preserved vegetables and fruit, a little meat.  That told me something about the nature of my captivity.  Either they didn’t intend to keep me here long, or they were just going to let me die when the food ran out.  Water, at least, I would never lack.

Although the wind abated from time to time, the rain never ceased entirely.  Water crashing from below and water falling from above, and barren stone between.  Everything in shades of steel and iron.  If I tired of the endless corridors of my prison keep, I could go outside and watch the waves hurl themselves at the sky and wonder what it would be like to fall into that cold sea.

“Corrected” version:

As I had nothing else to do with my time I set about searching through the rest of the rooms, and corridors. At least it was something to do; other than think about what had happened to me, and why I was here, and how long I was likely to remain.

Most of the rooms were completely empty. I found one that contained a narrow bed and a chair. Another room had shelves with a few-hundred glass jars containing preserved vegetables and fruits, and a little meat. That told me something about the nature of my captivity. Either they didn’t intend to keep me here long, or they were just going to let me die when the food ran out.  Water, at least, I would never lack.

Although the wind abated from time to time, the rain never ceased entirely.  Water crashing from below and water falling from above, and barren stone between.  Everything in shades of steel and iron.  If I tired of the endless corridors of my prison keep, I could go outside and watch the waves hurl themselves at the sky and wonder what it would be like to fall into that cold sea.

[Author’s comment: WTF is up with these incorrect semicolons? The incorrect commas, I sort of expect, but semicolons are easy compared to commas. Also, these changes to the POV character’s diction and syntax are getting on my nerves. There is no reason to make such changes other than for the “editor” to put his personal “stamp” on my story.]

Original version:

A few days passed, I think.  Whenever there was only moderate rain and no wind, I went outside, no longer looking for an end to sea and sky but only… wondering, maybe, how long it would be until I forgot that I had ever lived anywhere else.

During the worst weather, I explored my prison.  There were, it appeared, far more rooms and corridors than my original search revealed.  I found a cache of torches, flints and steel.  I was oddly pleased at that last.  An alternative to drowning, if it came to that.  Maybe my jailers would come to check on me years later and find my body, my dead hand still pressing a piece of coldmetal to my heart…

There is, at times, a strange comfort to be had in knowing that one can always die as a last act of defiance.

“Corrected” version:

A few days passed, I think, my consciousness of the time was blurry. Whenever there was only moderate rain and no wind, I went outside, no longer looking for an end to sea and sky but… wondering, maybe, how long it would be until I forgot that I had ever lived anywhere else.

During the worst of the weather, I explored my prison some more. There were, it appeared, far more rooms and corridors than my original search had revealed. I found a cache of torches, flints and steel. I was oddly pleased by that last thing. It was an alternative to drowning, if it came to that. Maybe my jailers would come to check on me in years to come, and find my body, my dead hand still pressing a piece of cold metal to my heart…

There are, at times, a strange comfort to be had in knowing that, as a last act of defiance, one can always die.

[The first sentence of this section is now punctuated incorrectly… and the latter part of it shouldn’t even be there, dammit. This character would never say, “My consciousness of the time was blurry.” *rolls eyes* There are a strange comfort…? Does this idjit know anything about noun-verb agreement? And as for making coldmetal two words… Oh, hell, no. There’s this thing I do, where I use a term that’s less obvious than cold iron but means the same thing in context…]

Original version:

I began losing track of time’s passage.  I slept when I was tired.  I ate when I was hungry, and tried to count days by how many jars of food were gone.  I stopped talking to myself.  Why bother?  I already knew what I’d say in reply.

I almost missed it when it first happened:  a sound that was not wind or water, was not the hiss of a burning torch or any other sound that belonged as part of my present experience.  Soft and even, not quite a tapping sound, it went on for a moment, paused, and then resumed.

It was the sound of someone else’s footsteps.

“Corrected” version:

As I said, my consciousness of time passing was blurry. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry, and tried to count days by how many jars of food were gone. I stopped talking to myself. Why bother? I already knew what I’d say in reply.

I almost missed it when it first happened; a sound that was not the wind or the water, a sound that was not the hiss of a burning torch or any other sound that belonged as part of my present experience. The sound was soft and even, not quite a tapping sound, it went on for a moment, then paused, and then resumed again.

I thought it was a sound, of someone else’s footsteps.

[Author’s comment: That comma in the last sentence is wrong…]

Original version:

That sound changed everything.  It didn’t occur to me until later that anyone else on this island of stone was likely a prisoner the same as myself.  Nor did I consider that I could be imagining it.  All that mattered was finding the person whose footsteps I heard.

I grabbed up a torch and ran to the main passage.  The acoustics of this place played tricks with direction and distance. The sound came first from near the door to outside, and then a moment later from the chambers beyond the right-hand corridor.  I ran, pausing frequently to listen, and torchlight flickered and flowed over stone walls and blind doorways.  My leg ached from the never-ending cold and damp; I cursed the old injury that slowed me down now.

“Corrected” version:

That sound changed everything. It never occurred to me until then that anyone else on this island of stone was likely also a prisoner the same as myself. Neither, did I consider that I could just be imagining it. All that mattered to me was finding the person whose footsteps I’d heard.

I grabbed up a torch and ran to the main passage. The acoustics of this place played tricks on my ears with direction and distance. The sound came first from near the door to the outside, and then a moment later it came from the chambers beyond the right-hand corridor. I ran pausing frequently to listen. The light of the torch flickered and flowed over stone walls and blind doorways. My leg ached from the never ending cold and damp; I cursed the old injury that slowed me down now.

Original version:

After a time, the footsteps ceased and did not return. I listened… Five minutes, fifteen… Finally I had to admit that I had lost the direction.  For now.  I searched the rooms in that area, though.  If there was someone else here — and I could not let myself think that there was not — surely I’d find some sign of their presence…

Room after empty room.  The fear crept in that this was some cruel deception, that my jailers, having failed to break me — perhaps — with despair, were now trying hope instead.  A branching in the corridor, and six more rooms…

The next one was different.

“Corrected” version:

After a time, the footsteps I’d heard ceased and did not return. I listened for what must have been fifteen minutes. Nothing. Finally, for now, I had to admit to myself that I had lost the direction. I did search the rooms in that area, though. If there was someone else here – and I could not let myself believe that there was not – surely I’d find some sign of their presence…

All I found though was room after empty room. The fear crept into me that this was some cruel deception; that my jailers, having failed to break me – perhaps – with despair, were now trying hope instead. A branching of the corridor, and six more rooms…

The next one appeared different to my sight.

Original version:

I would have sworn this room was empty before, as were most of the chambers that riddled this island.  Where had these crates come from?  I pried the lid off one and looked inside.  Metal cans, sacks both heavy paper and rough cloth, plastic bottles and glass jars… Food.  I opened another crate, and another.  Some contained more food — a few years’ worth, by my quick estimate — and some contained other things.  Woolen blankets.  Oil lanterns.  Clothing.  A black iron kettle — I was careful not to touch that — and a folding tripod to hang it over a fire.  I sent a thought of thanks to whatever person or power had had these things left here.

But I would have sworn this room was empty.

“Corrected” version:

I could have sworn this room was empty before as were most of the chambers that filled this island. Where had those crates come from? I pried the lid off one and then looked inside. Metal cans, sacks both heavy paper and rough cloth, plastic bottles and glass jars… Food. I opened another crate, and another. Some contained more food – a few years worth, by my quick estimate – and some containing other things. Fuzzy woolen blankets, oil lanterns, clothing, and a black iron kettle – I was careful not to touch that – along with a folding tripod to hang it over a fire if I wanted to. I sent a thought of thanks to whatever person of power had had these things left here.

But I would still have sworn that this room was empty before.

Original version:

Some time later, well-fed and wearing entirely clean clothing, I thought that maybe I should make this chamber my “residence” now.  But it contained nothing but these crates, and the room with the bed and chair was considerably closer to the outside door.  I made a pack from a blanket, filled it with food and a couple changes of clothes, picked up a now-lit lantern, and stepped back out into the corridor.

Flicker.

For maybe three seconds, the corridor was… different.  Pale walls, dark floor, neither of the familiar rough stone.  Dim but steady light with none of the warmth of fire — or sun, for that matter.  Polished wooden doors.

Flicker.

The door I reached out to touch turned to cool stone under my hand.  I stood unmoving, not knowing if I should weep or scream or laugh.  All or none seemed appropriate.

Then I lifted the pack again and went back to my room.

“Corrected” version:

[Strangely enough, the idjit “editor” had no “corrections” for this section, other than to change Flicker to Something flickered, without italics.]

Original version:

The footsteps did not come back that day, or the next, or the day after that.  My feeling of hope was fast deteriorating.  I moved more supplies from the room with the crates to the rooms I thought of as mine.  I was not surprised to discover that all of the clothing was my size.

I went outside, thinking of doors and Doors.  Another day of storms.  Even if other land existed beyond this never-silent sea, how would I get there, or anyone else get here?  No ship could survive this weather.  Thunder crashed, sharp and immediate as gun fire.  I stood with my back to the outside door, listening to the wind.  Sometimes it cried a name, but I don’t know whose.

“Corrected” version:

The footsteps didn’t come back that day, or the next. They didn’t even come back the day after that. My feeling of hope was fast deteriorating. I moved more supplies from the room with the crates to the room I now thought of as mine. I was not surprised that all of the clothing was my perfect size.

I went outside, thinking of doors, and Doors. Another day of storms. Even if other land existed beyond this never-silent sea, how would I ever get there, or, for that matter, anyone else get here? No ship could survive this bad weather. Thunder crashed, sharp and immediate as gun fire. I stood with my back to the outside door, listening to the wind. Sometime it cried a name, but I don’t know who’s.

Original version:

I cannot explain what happened.  Several days after I’d found the crates, I was in one of my rooms, trying to set up the kettle’s iron tripod without burning my hands on that metal.  Something — a sound, a sense of presence — made me turn around.

A man, dressed in black, battered and worn and armed, stared back at me. Had he come to kill me? Did I care, at this point?

“Are you real?” I asked.  My voice sounded rough even to my own ears, it had been so long since I’d spoken aloud.  Then, “Please.  Don’t leave.  Even if… Even if you’re only a hallucination… Don’t leave me here alone.”

“Corrected” version:

I cannot explain what happened next, because I don’t understand it, myself. Several days after I’d found the crates, I was in one of my rooms, trying to set up the kettle’s iron tripod without burning my hands on the hot metal. Something – a sound or a sense of a person’s presence – made me turn around.

A man, dressed in black, battered, worn and armed, was staring right back at me. ‘Had he come to kill me’ I thought. ‘I don’t know if I even care’

“Are you real?” I asked the man out loud. Even to my own ears, my voice sounded rough. It had been so long since I’d last spoken out loud. Then, “Please don’t leave. Even if, even if you’re only a hallucination… Don’t leave me here, alone.”

[Author’s comment: The tripod isn’t hot; the POV character doesn’t mean that kind of burning. Does he not refer to steel/iron as coldmetal earlier? *is torn between banging head on desk in frustration and sighing with relief that some humans don’t know about some non-humans’ aversion to ferrous materials*]

 

About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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2 Responses to How the WRONG Copyeditor Can Make a Mess of Your Manuscript: part 2

  1. Finding an editor is easy. Finding a good editor is a super tricky thing.

    I hired a developmental editor for one of my novels. She said she did romance. She wanted to change the story from what it was (a romance novel) to a story of sacrifice and redemption (making the male lead lose all of his magic if he fell in love or consummated that love).

    Um, what part of romance novel did she miss?!?

    Had another supposedly romance editor read a different novel. They wanted to break a core rule of romance and separate the hero and heroine by throwing the heroine in a dungeon to connect the reader with the injustice of the situation. If we set aside the romance genre for a moment, it ignores the gaping plot hole that opens because why wouldn’t the bad guy just kill her while she’s in the dungeon alone?

    I have started to doubt the editing process.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thing about developmental editing is that it’s partly a matter of personal tastes. A good developmental editor won’t try to rewrite the story to suit their own tastes if that’s not what the author was going for. Unfortunately, it’s harder — or at least more time-consuming — for an author to tell if a developmental editor is a good one or not, because you can’t see how they work from a thousand-word sample.

      There’s a reason I prefer to stick with copy/line editing, at least when I’m doing it for money.

      Liked by 1 person

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